Curbing Student Hunger Challenges: Roundtable Talk At UWC
Far too many students go hungry every day.
To address this issue, the Socio-Economic Rights Project (SERP) at the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Dullah Omar Institute hosted a roundtable on access to food for students in tertiary institutions in South Africa on 5 October 2017.
The roundtable was an exploratory meeting which sought to probe the issues and also served as a platform for gaining buy-in of proposed partners in preparation for advocacy for policy review under the auspices of the access to food for students’ project.
SERP researcher Funmilola Adeniyi said the day’s engagement arose out of - and indicated - a real need for coordination at a national level among the various stakeholders.
“There is also a need to put accountability measures firmly at the doorstep of one or more of the stakeholders - responsibility should rest with government, private sector and university administration. We need a joint coordination effort,” she said.
SERP promotes the realization of socio-economic rights in South Africa and the African region - the kind of key social justice matters outlined in South Africa’s the South African Constitution of 1996.
Adeniyi noted that this is one of the few constitutions that explicitly recognizes the right to adequate food of all citizens. Yet the realization of this right for many people - and especially disadvantaged students in tertiary institutions - remains a challenge.
“Questions arise on the role food insecurity plays with regard to South Africa’s incredibly high failure and dropout rates among University students - and the impact this has on other rights, such as the right to education and the right to health,” she noted.
Against this backdrop, SERP has commissioned a project known as Access to Food for Students in South African Tertiary Institutions (or the Access to Food for Students Project).
“Although there have been several attempts to organize different initiatives to address this challenge, what is missing is an accountability mechanism, which fosters a sense of coordination, extending the schemes to every student that is food insecure on all campuses in the country,” Adeniyi explained.
The Project seeks to address (among other things): the obligations to realize the right to food of students in tertiary institutions; the role of different stakeholders in realizing the right to food of students in tertiary institutions; and the best approach to addressing food insecurity among students of tertiary institutions in South Africa.
Lawyers, economists, public health practitioners, policy makers, food security experts, private sector representatives, government department representatives, non-governmental organisations, chapter nine institutions, researchers, academics and student representatives attended the roundtable, together outlining issues to be addressed from a first-hand perspective, as well as possible solutions going forward.